Contact: Mark Kastel, 608-625-2042
International Organic Scandal: Major Canadian Grain Exporter's Certification Suspended
Organic Industry Watchdog Says "System Working as Designed, Albeit Too Slowly"
CORNUCOPIA, WI -- After two years of speculation by U.S. and Canadian organic farmers, facing below-cost competition eroding sustainable pricing, and even forcing some out of business, an announcement last week, by the Canadian government authority overseeing organics, has finally offered an explanation.
Jirah Milling and Sales , based in Quebec, Canada, has had their organic certification suspended by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The company, annually selling thousands of metric tonnes of organic feed soybeans and grains in U.S. markets, had been under scrutiny for some time. Organic soybean growers, and other crop producers, on both sides of the border had been questioning how Jirah could apparently sell organic beans significantly below what they knew to be the cost of production.
"We have been aware of problems with imported soybeans for years and have been actively investigating this operation for many months," said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute . "It was obvious, from collaborating with U.S. organic grain producers, and their cooperative leaders, that something was wrong," Kastel added.
Michael Saumur, the National Manager of the Canadian Organic Office at CFIA, said that they had received two formal complaints about Jirah's operations. Jirah then received "multiple assessments," he said. The assessments revealed what Saumur would only term as "deviations" from the company's organic plan. Jirah, Saumur explained, was "given ample opportunity to correct" the deviations. Unable to do so, Saumur said "it was deemed applicable to issue a suspension."
While Saumur expressed the need to maintain confidentiality about further details, one complaint concerning Jirah, filed in November 2010, alleges blending of cheaper conventional grains with organic and then the sale of the adulterated product as certified organic feed.
"Since we have spent years investigating cheap Chinese soybean imports, dominating the West Coast market, we initially thought that Jirah was transshipping beans from China and "sanitizing' them with a Canadian label," said Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute , a farmer-based organic industry watchdog . "It now appears that any improprieties were homegrown on Canadian soil."